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The Artistry and Influence of Costume Designer Patricia Field

by Veryan Zimber

Fashion and costuming in TV and Film are often seen as a supporting element, with colours and textures that simply add life to scenes.

When Patricia Field became the costume designer for Sex and the City (SATC), her view on the outfits was slightly more elevated. So much so the outfits worn by the famous four became iconic and, in many ways, the backbone of the show. 

Often costuming goes deeper than surface level: being a way of presenting extra information about a character or taking the production to cult favourite levels. And for SATC, this range true. 

How was Carrie affording all these incredible outfits on a writers wage? We didn’t care because she looked like she had strolled off the catwalk during fashion week and we all wanted to look like that too. 

Thus, the wardrobe and costuming of the show gained its own following.

Patricia Field was born in New York City to an Armenian father and a Greek mother. She was raised in Queens where her family owned a drycleaning business, perhaps being around different types of clothes sparked the love for clothing. 

This may come as a surprise to some but Field did not study fashion or design at university - but rather government and philosophy. I know, I didn’t see that coming either, but I love that someone as successful as her became so through sheer natural talent. 

In 1966, with her then partner Jo-Ann Salvucci, she opened her first boutique named the Pants Pub. The store then moved location and became her namesake: Patricia Field. 

The store became popular with transgender and other underground (as they were seen at the time) communities. 

In 2016 she made the decision to sell the store, as her focus turned to costume designing. She has since opened her concept store ARTFashion, selling original art and hand painted clothes by a select group of artists.

On the set of 1995 film, Miami Rhapsody, is where Patricia and Sarah Jessica Parker first met. Field was hired for as the costume designer, and they bonded instantly over their similar sense of style. 

When the costume designer for the pilot of SATC wasn’t working out, SJP suggested Patricia meet with Darren Star and the rest is history. 

When given the character descriptions Field said they were all quite established except for Carrie who she developed over time - with input from SJP. 

What we ended up with was brave, unique and at times eccentric in both style and personality. 

Mixing patterns, clashing colours and adding giant flower corsages and the highest skyscraper heels to run down a New York street in. Not only was the show creating a level of escapism for the viewers, it broke down the walls of what fashion and expression should be.

In fact, the tutu that Carrie wore in the opening credits of the show, arguably one of the most iconic outfits to come from the franchise, almost didn’t even feature as it was up against a powder blue Marc Jacobs dress which almost won out as the show’s creator, Darren Star, preferred it. 

Patricia, however, fought for that little tutu which she found in a 5 dollar bin on a showroom floor, because she knew it was special, timeless and iconic - and she was right.

While being in charge of costume for a show like SATC would have been liberating, it also came with challenges. Despite the show being predominantly lead by the fashion, Field simultaneously had to keep an element of realism and believability. 

These were 30 somethings living in New York City and they were dressing in these glorious outfits that screamed personality, but they still needed to compliment who they were and where they were in their lives. 

The main thing that stands out from watching any show or movie that Field has worked on is her extraordinary ability to combine thrifted and designer pieces to make an outfit. Somehow making the styles meet in the middle, complement each other and inevitably creating a showstopping outfit. 

There has been a plethora of iconic outfits from SATC that highlighted and encapsulated great ‘90s styles; trends that have come around again and again. 

One of my favourite looks from the entire franchise is the Pucci dress when Carrie has dinner with Aiden in the second movie. 

It was teamed with multi-strap heels by Vivienne Westwood, a Zac Posen studded floral belt, black Chanel clutch and the ‘Rum and Raisin’ Maison Martin Margiela jacket that was repeated over a few different outfits. It was such a flawless look that was both well styled but also looked effortlessly thrown together, as all the best outfits do.

If SATC was the only great project that Patricia has styled in her career that would be enough - but she is also the fashion mastermind behind the movie The Devil Wears Prada the viral Netflix show, Emily In Paris. 

It is evident that Patricia Field has had the most spectacular career and this year’s Tribeca Film Festival evidenced this further. 

Premiering was a film about her life, Happy Clothes: A Film About Patricia Field. The documentary included interviews from Kim Cattrall, Lily Collins, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Star, and others who each discussed their time working with Field. 

Providing a behind the scenes look into how her creations came to life, she regales stories of her life in one of the most exciting industries.

Emmy-winning costume designer is not done with the fashion world just yet. Still working at the age of 82, not only does this demonstrate her love for her work but also how indispensable she is within the industry. 

I hope more than anything she is still creating these utter masterpieces for years to come, as I’m not sure there is anyone that has the eye for an outrageous outfit like she does; she is quite literally the Queen of Style and long may she reign.

Edited by Emily Duff

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